Academic journal article Child Study Journal

Organizing Successful Parent Involvement in Urban Schools

Academic journal article Child Study Journal

Organizing Successful Parent Involvement in Urban Schools

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to look at successful parent involvement strategies that engage parents of at-risk students in urban schools. It is possible to frequently engage a large number of parents in urban inner city areas. Several Buffalo Public Schools have demonstrated the ability to do this very well. This article will briefly look at research related to parent involvement and then discuss what has worked in Buffalo Public Schools with high parent involvement.

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A major reason parent involvement with schools is so important for at-risk children is that their home/commitment and school world is often different. The predictable consequences are that children usually embrace their family's home/community culture and reject the unfamiliar school culture including academic component and goals (Hamilton-Lee, 1988). Other research suggests it is important for teachers to develop communication with parents of at-risk children so that both understand the others setting and expectations (U.S. Office of Statistics 1998; Epstein, 1991; Ziegler, 1987).

Typically, mainstream parents with higher socioeconomic status and education are more involved in their children's educating than poverty level and minority parents. However, research demonstrates that when teachers take clear, deliberate action to involve parents the socioeconomic status and education level of parents disappear as a factor in the willingness of parents to be involved. Research over the past 30 years has consistently shown similar data about parent involvement in schools. For example (National Center for Education Statistics, 1998), 72% of schools with low concentration of poverty report that "most or all" parents attend school open house. This number is dramatically different for school with a high concentration of high poverty where only 28% of parents attend open houses. Ninety percent of schools (Chrispeils, 1987) provided opportunity for volunteers both inside and outside the classroom. However, as the reduced-price lunch or minority enrolment reach 50% parent involvement declined. Lower social economics parents often feel frustrated being involved in school because of lack of communication skills, a natural tension between teachers and parents and differing perspectives.

A number of studies and literature reviews have looked at what motivates parents to participate in schools (Aronson, 1996; Arizona Department of Education, 1989; Batey, 1996; Benson, 2004; Benson & Nelson, 2003; California State Department of Education, 1991; Countryman, 1994; Epstein, 1991 & 1995; Harris, L. et al., 1987; Office US Office of Statistics, 1998). Recommendations include:

1. One-to one communications by teachers, parents, or other community members.

2. Representatives, parents, and volunteers making phone calls to their peers, phone access for teachers and other staff to call parents.

3. Parent activities that appeal to the individual needs and interests of all parents.

4. The use of encouragement, accomplishment, and recognition to maintain active involvement.

5. Develop a pervasive culture of interaction; provide a positive warm environment where parents feel welcome.

6. Provide at least one opportunity per month for parents to get acquainted with the school.

7. Provide parents with information designed to promote learning at home and topics related to child learning.

There is a correlation between planning steps and activities that encouraged parent involvement in the Buffalo Public Title 1 Schools and what has been reported by researchers and other school districts over the past 30 years. Parents must feel they are welcome in the school and that they are accepted before they will fully engage with the school. In return parents need to assist with their child's learning, problems, inappropriate behavior, and provide help with a variety of other needs. …

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